Lots of people take circuitous routes to reach their goals and the talented, once- beaten Ukrainian light heavy weight has proven that. Sillakh is a tall, boxer puncher with an outstanding record of (19-1-15k). He’s a member of Shadeed Suluki’s OLD SCHOOL boxing team that’s currently training in Canoga Park; Ca. WCB had the pleasure of spending some time with the young fighter, and found him to be very engaging.
WCB: I’ve heard you being call, ‘The Black Russian’ on TV during your fights, but you’re not from Russia, are you?
IS: No, I’m from Ukraine.
WCB: Ok, now that that’s cleared up, tell me about your journey to the states.
IS: Well, I first got interested in boxing when I saw Evander Holyfield against Riddick Bowe for the championship and I got a dream of becoming heavyweight champion of the world. I started my amateur career in Ukraine when I was eight years old. Now, I have twenty years in boxing. I had over three hundred amateur fights. In 2007, I came to Chicago to fight in the world amateur championships. I did really good. I didn’t win, but my manager wanted me to stay in the U.S. and turn professional. I went back home, but returned eight months later.
WCB: What were some of the cultural changes you experienced here?
IS: (laughing) it was like a whole new universe. It was different for me because, I’m from Ukraine and I have Black skin, and I like White.
WCB: So, I guess you’re pretty hard to figure out?
IS: Oh, I got comfortable right away, the first day. Of I had to get used to the weather and the food. Then, I started getting bills (laughing) and it was hard, in Ukraine you can live and not work….
WCB: Really? How’s that?
IS: Well you get help from your friends and family, you can go a year and not pay the electricity, here, if you don’t pay, they turn it off.
WCB: Yeah, they do that. Do you have a family here?
IS: Yeah, my wife and now I have two kids.
WCB: Now, your pro career was sailing along smoothly (17-0-14k) then, you suffered your first set back 4/27/2012 by Denis Grachev (KO8). How tough was it to bounce back from your loss?
IS: Well, yeah, it was a weird experience. I was having management problems, I was worrying about this and that and I couldn’t keep my mind on the fight, but it’s no excuse, I’m a professional and I can’t take my eyes off my goal and I can’t forget about all the talent I have.
WCB: Having never been a fighter, why is it, a guy can roll along knocking out and beating up a grip of people, then fall apart when they lose for the first time?
IS: It’s mental, and then you listen to what people are saying, but I know what’s inside me and I know what I want, so I go on.
WCB: How did you end up with Suluki?
IS: When I came to Los Angeles, my manager took me around, looking for a coach. We stopped at the Wild card gym; we went to Las Vegas, Phoenix, and then the 360 gym (in Encino) and met Shadeed. We worked good together right away. He didn’t try to change me and I told my manager, he’s pretty good, let’s work with him.
WCB: When’s your next fight?
IS: Well, I guess we’ll fight on May 21st if nothing changes, so we’re getting ready for that.
WCB: Yeah, things change a lot in this game.
IS: You’re right.